BRATTLEBORO-- The Vermont Disaster Animal Response Team will hold a special workshop in Brattleboro Sunday to train Windham County residents to be volunteers in case an emergency animal shelter has to be set up in the event of a natural or human-made emergency.

The all-day workshop will begin at 9:15 a.m. at Yankee Dog Training and Day Care at 94 Vernon St., and will be led by VDART staff. It is funded from a grant from the Department of Public Safety. The workshop is one of two that VDART is holding across the state to help better coordinate the emergency response to assist animals in the case of a disaster.

"If there is a disaster we want to make sure we have volunteers who are skilled to deal with animals during a stressful situation," said Humane Society of the United States Northeast Regional Director Joanne Bourbeau. "It is important to be trained and to have a plan in place to be able to better serve the animals."

The Vermont Disaster Animal Response Team is a team of volunteers that is working to train others in helping animals and better coordinate the state wide response to a disaster. Bourbeau said the trainers Sunday will have live animals to help volunteers understand the challenges in handling and behavior. And there will also be a focus on the steps that need to be taken to set up and emergency shelter that is safe and clean.

Bourbeau said trainers will also talk about the need to follow incident command protocol to make sure the lines of communication between the emergency shelter remains open with municipal officials, pet owners and emergency responders.


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Bourbeau said The Humane Society had been addressing the need to establish a strong volunteer network to deal with animals in the event of a disaster even before Tropical Storm Irene.

But she said Irene highlighted the need for there to be trained volunteers and a robust communication network.

"It is important to have the same command structure everywhere in the state," said Bourbeau . "Local planning is an integral part of this. When local volunteers are trained they own their centers and that affects how a local community can respond."

She said the names of the people who complete the training Sunday will be entered in a state data base so that the right people can be contacted in the event of an emergency. Bourbeau also said a strong local volunteer-led animal rescue shelter can help make sure that more humans are safe during a disaster.

Pet owners will sometimes refuse to leave their animals behind, she said, but when they can be assumed that an animal shelter is available it might lead all pet owners to make the right choice when confronting an emergency.

"The bottom line is that if there is a call to set up an emergency shelter, we want to make sure we have people trained," she said. "It's important to have people who understand all the issues and know how a shelter should operate."

For more information about Sunday's training call 802-368-2790

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext.